Michigan harbor in danger of closing
Traverse City — Leland Harbor could eventually close for good unless officials scrape together enough money to dredge its sand-choked entrance.
The Leland Township Harbor Commission’s tight budget and limited federal funding over the past several years has stalled dredging efforts for the harbor in Traverse City, which is a refuge for Lake Michigan boaters in distress and houses fishing boats and ferries.
The harbor was last dredged in 2014, the Traverse City Record-Eagle reported. At that time, the Leland Harbor received $260,000 in dredging aid from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Sand continues to pile onto the lake bed and has essentially blocked passage by cutting the channel to less than 6 feet deep.
Harbormaster Russell Dzuba said he closed off the harbor after a recent storm and that it will stay closed in the spring.
Dzuba said annual dredging would cost about $200,000, and it seems unlikely the harbor will receive federal or state assistance from Michigan.
Harbor commissioners are hoping to raise about $200,000 to help contribute toward purchasing a $500,000 dredging boat. By having the boat, the harbor would no longer need to look for outside assistance. Leland Township Supervisor Susan Och said about $368,000 has already been secured.
Many harbors across Michigan were scraping for money to dredge a few years ago when water levels in the Great Lakes were among the lowest ever recorded. Lake levels have rebounded during the past couple of years, but there remain harbors like in Traverse City was dredging is still needed.
In 2014, Dzuba told The Detroit News why dredging the Leland Harbor is so important: “If there’s even a chance people will scrape the bottom, they’ll pass us by.”
While there’s been wide support for the dredging boat in Leland, Dzuba has expressed concern for the harbor commission’s budget after operating, maintenance and staffing costs. Despite the financial worry, the harbormaster still supports the idea.
“The harbor itself brings a lot of people in and lot of dollars into the community,” Och said. “If you look at any Pure Michigan literature, they love Fishtown.”
The Detroit News contributed.